“The trouble with Scotland”, said the evil English king from the film Braveheart, “is that it's full of Scots”. Well, judging by my initial experiences shortly before and after arriving for a visit to the land of Israel, that evil Long Shanks king should be paraphrased: the trouble with Israel, you see, is that it is full of Israelis. Full enough to remind me why I was so keen to leave Israel for good; full enough to serve as a great advertisement to the Great South Land from which I now come.
Such brave statements on the quality of the modern day Israelite deserve some explanation. Allow me to start at the Frankfurt terminal where we were feeding Dylan with a [glass] bottle of milk while waiting for our flight to Israel to start boarding. Next to us were sitting three Israelis who seemed to me to be in their early forties, professionals on their way back to Israel from some European work. One of them looked at Dylan for a second, and then told his friends that his one year and two months old baby boy has dispensed with the bottles a long time ago; his boy, he said with much pride and obvious contempt to our slightly younger Dylan, is a “cannibal”.
Fast forward a few hours and we were shopping at a supermarket located in a shopping mall not far from where my parents leave in central Israel. We were waiting second in line for the cashier to check us out of a major shopping expedition that contained one yoghurt tub and one box of rice milk (thanks, EK, for the tip). So far so good; I think I can safely assume we've all been through similar scenarios many a time. Enter the Israeli factor.
The woman ahead of me in the queue was accompanied by her two sons, who were continuously sent to fetch more and more products while the supervising mother was dealing with the cashier. I started off with my two items being half a conveyor belt away from her closest item, but quickly enough my items found themselves overshadowed and then covered by her items. While watching this intriguing show, we got a knock on our backs by a young woman: “Can you remember I was here behind you in the queue?” Before managing to even comprehend what we were being asked to do that woman vanished away to start her shopping. Yes, she did not have even one shopping item at her possession at that point in time.
Not that we cared to look after her interests. Not like we were able to look after her interests, for only a few second after the first young woman walked away thinking her space in the queue was safe and secure, another young woman came along accompanied by her son to queue up behind me. That little family was obviously lacking a father figure, because that woman was pushing up at my back as if her life depended on it as she piled her stuff very close to mine on the conveyor. So close, in fact, that her stuff overshadowed and then covered mine.
All the while I kept on finding my elbows getting dirty by half empty sample tabs of yoghurt that were left behind by fellow shoppers at all sorts of strategic locations next to the cashier. Strategic enough to catch you unaware with every turn you make to set yourself loose from the clutches of the women queuing up on each of your sides as you queue to pay for your shopping at the supermarket.
Obviously, when making such bold statements regarding Israelis' respect for their fellow human beings based on these few examples I am making some gross generalizations. It is extremely unfair to judge a nation based on a few samples; just like all other people, there are nice and respectful Israelis just as there are those I would very like much to keep my distance from. The trouble is, though, that Israel seems to have a higher ration of the nasty to the nice than most other places I have been to. Significantly more than the place I now call home.
It is exactly experiences such as the above, a mundane visit to the supermarket that turned sour, that mean I will be doing my best to minimize my number of visits to the land of Israel and to keep those visits nice and brief. After all, why should I pay to suffer?
To finish this post off on a positive note, I will say that all is not lost and that there are some bright and shiny examples on offer in Israel. The example I shall give are two of our friends' children, aged eight and four, who seem to have the exact qualities I would very much like to aspire to find in my own child: That wild childish spirit that can be annoying but is unavoidable, but also some straight decency. Simple stuff, like saying “please” and meaning it when asking for something; basic stuff that can make all the difference.
I am not asking my child to be a doctor or an astronaut and I don't care if he won't be the next Einstein. However, what I would very much like is to be able to raise my own child to be a decent and respectful member of civilization, and those two kids I'm talking about here show that while the task may be hard it is achievable.